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Aviation Day: How aviators helped shape Alaska (+VIDEO)

Alaska Dispatch

"Build a mile of road, it takes you a mile out of town … Build a mile of runway, it takes you to the world."

Mark your calendars and celebrate the role of manned flight and aviation in American history this Sunday, Aug. 19, National Aviation Day.

Here in Alaska, where more than 80 percent of communities are only accessible by air year-round, it's a day of special significance.

A few stats to better understand what pilots mean for Alaskans from Ketchikan to Barrow:

  • Per capita, more pilots live in Alaska than in any other state
  • Two-thirds of Alaska is federally protected land; road construction is not allowed
  • Alaska is at once the largest and smallest U.S. state: geographically it's twice the size of Texas, the second-largest state in land size, yet the 49th state's far-flung communities make it dead-last in the U.S. for population density
  • Alaska is zig-zagged by more than a dozen major mountain ranges and countless streams and rivers, making land-based transportation infrastructure cost prohibitive
  • Aviators offer Bush Alaska communities "a lifeline for our communities and people" and bring everyday necessities -- food and water and medical care and clothing to name just a few -- that are taken for granted by a nation of interconnected urban dwellers

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The Alaska Division of Statewide Aviation produced the first of a two-part video series, filmed in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, illustrating aviation's importance to life in the Last Frontier. The video features interviews with Alaska villagers, Alaska bush pilots and rural service providers. 

High-five the Alaska pilot in your life this weekend. And if you're in Anchorage, head to the Alaska Aviation Museum between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. for a free poster.

Contact Laurel Andrews at laurel(at)alaskadispatch.com